Day three of Black Library’s 2016 Advent Calendar takes us back to the Horus Heresy with Into Exile by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, in which technoarchaologist Arkhan Land finds himself caught up in the rebellion on Mars. With the red planet burning around him and enemies keen to either capture or kill him, Land has to abandon his home and put his faith in the Imperial Fists to see him safely off the surface. His flight is not unopposed however, as a hunter is on his trail, and even his vaunted intellect can’t protect him.
Told in a reverse sequential style this starts at the end before gradually revealing what happened, with events shown largely from the perspective of an Imperial Fist named Nicanor. From his dry, disciplined viewpoint we see through Land’s grandiose self image to the frightened human beneath, all the bluster and sneering condescension just a veneer of superiority. It’s a clever story that stands on its own but works especially well in conjunction with The Master of Mankind, giving a good introduction to Land and his idiosyncrasies by taking him out of his comfort zone and putting him in a situation where he has absolutely no control.